Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu convened the diplomatic-security cabinet for a meeting Wednesday morning to discuss the escalation along Israel’s frontier with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
While the meeting was scheduled day ago, it takes on added significance in light of the heightened tensions that have captured headlines in recent days. The ministers were expected to deliberate over the security situation in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza as well as the imminent release of Palestinian prisoners.
A number of ministers are expected to pressure the premier to delay the upcoming release – the third such move in a series of releases – in light of the escalating tensions.
Israeli ministers and lawmakers took to the airwaves on Wednesday morning to issue warnings to the Palestinians over continued terrorist activity while also offering their views on the utility of ongoing peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett told Israel Radio that Ramallah was to blame for the escalation in violence due to what he calls “incitement to kill Israelis.”
“If the terrorism continues, there won’t be quiet on the Palestinian side,” Bennett said.
The minister said the PA has encouraged a culture of incitement by naming town squares in Ramallah after suicide bombers and by offering state-sponsored stipends and benefits to convicted terrorists jailed in Israel.
Bennett told Israel Radio that the recent wave of terrorist attacks was set off by the re-launched peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Last year was the quietest in the last 35 years precisely because there were no peace talks between Jerusalem and Ramallah, according to Bennett.
Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi reacted to Bennett’s statements, saying the minister “exaggerated to a great extent.”
According to Hanegbi, the defense establishment’s assessment is that Hamas has no interest in escalating tensions with Israel at this time. In light of this state of affairs, Israel is “maintaining readiness and continues to exert great effort to prove its eagerness for peace.”
Labor MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, meanwhile, told Israel Radio that peace talks with the Palestinians are “an Israeli strategic interest.”
The former defense minister said the government “must not let up in efforts to push the talks forward,” according to Israel Radio, while at the same time taking a tough stance against terrorist organizations.
UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon on Wednesday called on Israel and Hamas to exercise restraint to defuse the escalation in the Gaza Strip.
“The Secretary-General rejects all actions targeting civilians and calls on all concerned to exert maximum restraint to prevent another cycle of bloodshed,” said his spokesperson.
“It is also essential to preserve the ceasefire understanding of November 2012 and restore calm,” he added, referring to the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreement that brought an end to last year’s Operation Pillar of Defense.
“The Secretary-General,” the spokesperson added, “continues to emphasize the need for the Israeli and Palestinian sides to remain steadfast in their commitment to achieving the two-state solution in order to end the violence permanently.”